FAIRBANKS, Alaska - UAF scientists have made a breakthrough in their study of what causes behavioral changes in Rabies victims.
Although rabies is transferable to humans, the majority of cases affect wild animals, livestock, and pets.
In Alaska, the Arctic Fox is one of the main carriers of the virus.
Rabies spreads through the saliva of the infected animal - one that is usually violent and prone to bite.
In a new study, UAF Professor of Veterinary Microbiology, Dr. Karsten Hueffer, found that the virus binds to the same receptor in the brain that's engaged by nicotine; but in the rabid brain, the host's behavior becomes frenzied, as opposed to relaxed.
Hueffer told us how the change in behavior of the host is integral to the transmission of the virus.
Dr. Karsten Hueffer; Dept. of Veterinary Medicine - UAF>>"Rabies is rather unusual in that it kills most of the animal that it infects, especially those that then lead to transmission, and that is very unusual. So there really is no other virus that has a similar mortality rate that kills as many of its victims as rabies. For rabies, that is close to 100%, so you can see this is even more lethal than the stereotypical bad virus of Ebola. And we think that it works in the population level because the virus can change the behavior very deliberately to induce these changes that then help the virus to get transmitted, and that is how the virus can keep the chain of infections going."